Michele Johnson, Ph.D. | Trinity University
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Michele Johnson, Ph.D.

One of my favorite aspects of working at Trinity is the opportunity to collaborate with students in research. We each contribute creative insights, and we’re learning together!

- Michele Johnson, Ph.D.

Michele Johnson joined the Department of Biology in 2009, after completing her Ph.D. in evolutionary biology at Washington University and postdoctoral work in behavioral neuroscience at Michigan State University. Dr. Johnson teaches courses on evolution, and her research focuses on the evolution of lizard behavior. She has long been involved in initiatives to support women in science, and she works closely with local elementary teachers to advance science education in San Antonio.

Selected Publications

  • Lailvaux, S.P., J. Leifer, B.K. Kircher, and M.A. Johnson. 2015. The incredible shrinking dewlap: skin elasticity and secondary sexual signal size in the green anole lizard (Anolis carolinensis). Ecology and Evolution. In press.
  • Simpson, R.K.*, M. A. Johnson, and T.G. Murphy. 2015. Migration and the evolution of sexual dichromatism: evolutionary loss of female coloration with migration among wood-warblers. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B: 282: 20150375.
  • Robinson, C.D.*, M.S. Patton*, B.M. Andre, and M.A. Johnson 2015. Convergent evolution of brain morphology and communication modalities in lizards. Current Zoology 61: 281-291.
  • Johnson, M.A., M.V. Lopez*, T.K. Whittle, A.K. Dill*, B.K. Kircher, D. Varghese*, and J. Wade. 2014. The evolution of copulation frequency and the mechanisms of reproduction in male Anolis lizards. Current Zoology 60: 768-777.
  • Battles, A.C.*, T.K. Whittle, C.M. Stehle*, and M.A. Johnson. 2013. Effects of human land use on prey availability and body condition in the green anole lizard, Anolis carolinensis. Herpetological Conservation and Biology 8: 16-26.
  • Cook, E.G.*, T.G. Murphy, and M.A. Johnson. 2013. Colorful displays signal male quality in a tropical anole lizard. Naturwissenschaften 100: 993-996.
  • Dill, A.K.*, T.J. Sanger, A.C. Battles, and M.A. Johnson. 2013. Sexual dimorphisms in habitat-specific morphology and behavior in the green anole lizard. Journal of Zoology 290: 135-142.
  • Johnson, M.A., R.E. Cohen, J.R. Vandecar, and J. Wade. 2011. Relationships between reproductive morphology, behavior, and testosterone in a natural population of the green anole lizard. Physiology & Behavior 104: 437-445.
  • Johnson, M.A. and J. Wade. 2010. Courtship neuromuscular systems across nine Anolis lizard species: sexual dimorphisms in structure and function. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, B 277: 1711-1719.
  • Johnson, M.A., L.J. Revell, and J.B. Losos. 2010. Behavioral convergence and adaptive radiation: effects of habitat use on territorial behavior in Anolis lizards. Evolution 64: 1151-1159.

* denotes Trinity undergraduate co-author

Research Areas

How does behavior evolve? The Johnson lab group is interested in the ecological factors that influence social behaviors and the physiological mechanisms that underlie those behaviors. Most of the lab’s work uses Caribbean lizards in the genus Anolis, or anoles, but we’re also exploring the diversity of lizards that occur at our local field sites in south-central Texas. We use field observations, laboratory experiments, molecular genetics, neuroendocrine techniques, and comparative methodology to explore behavioral evolution. See the lab website for more information.

Undergraduate Research

In the past six years, Dr. Johnson has collaborated with 28 Trinity undergraduates in her research on lizard behavior. These collaborations have produced 8 publications to date (with 9 undergraduate coauthors), 52 conference presentations, 5 honors theses, and 11 external grants awarded directly to undergraduate researchers. We’ve conducted fieldwork on lizards in Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, the Bahamas, the Cayman Islands, and Texas – you might even see us crawling through the bushes on Trinity’s campus!

Grants & Awards


  • National Science Foundation IOS 1257021. RUI: Behavioral convergence in Caribbean lizards: morphological and physiological mechanisms. 2013-2017. $515,000.
  • Texas Ecolab. 2010-2015. Six grants totaling over $69,000.


  • 2015 – Junior Faculty Award for Distinguished Teaching and Research, Trinity University
  • 2014 – Outstanding Mentor Award, Early Career, Council on Undergraduate Research, Biology Division

Community Service & Involvement

Trinity University Involvement

  • TWIST (Trinity Women in Science & Technology) faculty advisor
  • Phi Beta Kappa, President of Trinity University’s chapter
  • FASTER (Financial Aid for Science & Technology Students Enhanced with Research) grant advisory committee
  • Darwin Day planning committee
  • Major Scholarships and Fellowships Committee

Community Involvement

  • Coordinator of Trinity University’s Science Teaching Institute
  • Society of Integrative and Comparative Biology – Secretary, Division of Animal Behavior; Education Council